Vang Vieng

I had just spray painted the side of the minivan with the acidy insides of my stomach and was now hanging with my head out of the window, like a proper car sick Lao woman. The car was speeding way too fast on windy bumpy roads, passing some massively beautiful landscapes with rising limestone mountains – like the rest of northern Lao and Thailand it was covered in thick smoke, and I was too preoccupied trying, unsuccessfully, not to throw up (or at least trying to throw up at the right kind of turns, so that the vomit would hit the asphalt instead of the white side of the car), so I didn’t really notice.  I’ve seen pictures taken on a clear day though, and it’s breathtaking – the perfect setting for getting carsick. But my problem didn’t originate from the driver’s senseless approach to the hairpin turns (though it definitely didn’t help), but a nasty little food poisoning picked up from an unbeknownst to me source in Luang Prabang.

We were on our way to infamous Vang Vieng (you can read a great article that pretty much sums up the place here), an idyllic looking little town set along the Nam Song River, with beautiful mountains as a backdrop. Once a mayor town for opium trafficking, now a backpackers tubing “paradise”, with young foreigners walking unsteadily drunk down the street in broad daylight,  smoking opium behind bar counters, drinking mushroom shakes, walking around with buckets filled with ridiculously cheap alcohol and lounging at restaurants showing endless episodes of “Friends” and “Family Guy”. It’s a love it or hate it place (or for many: love it and hate it), a place where people go to party without restrictions and float down the river in a big black tube – most without – barhopping, getting free shots of Lao Lao at every stop. Every backpacker in the region would urge us to go there, so we did. It wouldn’t hurt to check it out and it was on the way down to Vientiane anyways.

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I mainly stayed in the room or down and the guesthouse restaurant watching “Friends” (I’ve never been a big fan of the show, and now less than ever) the two first days, trying to force some crackers and water down. At the end of both days I thought I felt better and ventured into the streets – doing nothing while everyone else is out having a great time is definitely not fun – both times I realized I wasn’t feeling too good after all – just a little bit too late – and ended up throwing up in the street, feeling so stupid and embarrassed cause it’s the kind of place where everyone assumes it’s alcohol related.

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I couldn’t get a drop of alcohol during our whole stay, barely any food, and would eat as slowly as a recovering anorectic when my stomach got back to “normal”, and it sure was weird seeing a town filled with people indulging in alcohol with completely sober eyes. Luckily there is actually other things to do there. A 30 minute long extremely dusty and bumpy ride took us to a tranquil blue lagoon, with locals and tourists playing in the water, and a big cave. An after spending too many days (we met again with some nice people first encountered in Pai) in Vang Vieng, Renate and I split up after a month travelling together. She heading towards Vientiane, and me backtracking up to Phonsavan and the Plain of Jars for a clown shoot.

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